As a result, up to 40 companies in Germany and myriad others abroad have taken the word “Bauhaus” as part of a brand or title. Imitators include a U.S. furniture maker, a rumored bordello in Japan, a variety of chocolate that touts its form and function, a coffee shop in Seattle and the early British gothic band Bauhaus, led by singer Peter Murphy. Tel Aviv sometimes bills itself as“Bauhaus City,” even though Bauhaus experts quibble that its housing designs don’t relate to the Bauhaus school. Even an art school in Weimar, Germany, called Bauhaus University isn’t connected to the original.
The greatest squatter of the moniker is a do-it-yourself retailer based in Mannheim, Germany, which trademarked “Bauhaus” during post-war divided Germany. It happened before Gropius and others established archives and museums — in Dessau, Germany, and Weimar (in the former east) and Berlin — to explain and protect the historical Bauhaus and its legacy. Now, it’s causing confusion to the general public and frustration to Bauhaus design aficionados.
“The term ‘Bauhaus’ has become a sort of super brand,” said Philip Oswalt, an architect and director of the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau. “It is a name for a much wider set of things, modern things. It is something that has culturally developed that we have to accept. That’s okay.” But he still finds it annoying when companies “use the name and subscribe to themselves higher cultural value” than they deserve.
Bauhaus vs. Bauhaus
AG Heinz G. Baus started with a 1,900-square-foot lumber and home-improvement store in Mannheim, calling it “Bauhaus” in 1960.
Sources at the company say he picked up the retailing idea in the United States and brought it back to Germany. A reclusive owner, Baus avoids public attention and declines most interview requests, including one from The Washington Post.
His Bauhaus stores are more and more ubiquitous, spreading in Europe the way Home Depot has in North America. The Swiss-registered Bauhaus has 190 stores in 15 countries, stretching north to Scandinavia and south to Spain and Turkey. It’s planning new stores in Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
Bauhaus AG has expanded from selling lumber and other building materials into the territory of Wal-Mart with some home goods. It publishes inserts for newspapers in markets near its stores, advertising goods such as plastic swimming pools, buckets of paint and electric bug zappers.
Its red logo uses block letters, echoing the graphics of Gropius’ school. Its slogan: “Wenn’s gut werden muss,” or “When it has to be good,” is repeated over loudspeakers in the company’s large, concrete stores.